Saturday, April 1, 2017

Prestige Class: Vampire [Fifth Draft]

Available on the DM's Guild (pay what you want) at this link!

With April here, I'm finding myself in interesting times.

I'm starting to transition my work to the DM's Guild, meaning I'm remastering and putting the finishing touches on old favorites, modifying them to use public domain works rather than utilizing images under fair use, and updating rulesets to fix old mistakes and create finished works.

I'm also starting up a new job and a new side project or two, so my ability to produce more homebrew is slowing down substantially. Making new homebrew is always important to me, but for now expect to see a few remastered projects coming in before entirely new work starts appearing again.

This time, the Vampire gets the remastering treatment! I've always been almost-satisfied with the vampire, but after four drafts I decided it was as good as it was going to get, and I needed to let it lie.

The benefit of having half a year between drafts is I've had a good deal of time to think of finishing touches, and of what truly final tweaks the vampire needed to be an ideal prestige class offering. And on that note:


  • Added Vampiric Quirks, a table of mostly-fluff quirks that help define your vampire and introduce additional minor weaknesses or visible traits that draw in from vampire lore while allowing your character to be distinct!
  • Added a sidebar rule for Prestige Classes, because PrCs are a lot more niche of an option and require some additional explanation.
  • Vampiric Arcana is now Spellcasting, allowing synergy with features, items, and similar that require the Spellcasting class feature. 
  • Granted Elementals exemption from being fed upon, because it's very hard to find the blood in a fire elemental. 
  • Added a sidebar explaining Sanguine Strikes / Smite synergy, because that was a question that came up often.
  • Retooled Blessing of Form, tying Mist Form to the spell gaseous form, increasing the blood cost of all forms, and introducing transformation limits to Wolf Form so you can't wolf-tank a monster, drop to 0 wolf HP, then reassume your form and keep wolf-tanking it. 
  • Moved Blessing of Darkness to 5th level, allowing Sinister Nourishment (the ASI ability) to stand alone at 4th. Most ASIs similarly stand alone, and it was a bad idea to double up anything at 4th level. 
  • I was almost tempted to make this option entirely without Sanguine Strikes, but I dialed that back. That would be a much larger retooling that I'd need immense feedback and brainstorming on, and the end result probably just wouldn't be worth it.
  • Once you stockpile a lot of it, public domain art is actually surprisingly easy to make work for an option like this. 


  1. Personally I think I'll be sticking with version 4, mainly because I like the artwork, and see most of the other changes here as not particularly likely to affect me.

    The vampire quirks are really cool, although 8 seems to have come out of nowhere.

    The spellcasting and elemental changes are ones that technically tighten up the class, so they're definitely welcome, but intuitively they change nothing since that's how anyone would logically play with them anyway.

    I personally preferred Mist Form as its own ability, rather than a spell. There are too many changes to the way the spell normally works to be worthwhile basing it upon that, in my opinion.

    The wolf form restrictions are probably a good idea. I also think it makes sense that a "counterspell" or similar would fail to work on this just the same as it would fail on the other transformations. Not a big impact on me because I've always preferred either bat or mist, for flavour reasons.

    If you've moved Bless of Darkness *purely* to avoid coming at the same time as an ASI, I don't think that's necessary. Clerics get *two* majors extra features at level 8 along with an ASI. Druids get important extra abilities at levels 4 and 8. Monks get a small extra ability at level 4, and rangers get one at 8. It's certainly not the most common way to do things, but it's also common enough not to be an exceptionally unusual thing to do.

    Your idea to retool this whole thing without Sanguine Strikes is an interesting one, and I'd be interested to see what it would be replaced with. It's always seemed a slightly odd ability to me thematically, so an alternate option would be appreciated. But as you say, an awful lot of work, and when you've made something so tightly balanced and highly regarded, probably ultimately not worth it.

    1. >sticking with v0.4 because art

      Bummer, but I understand. I knew that was going to be something I'd be up against when I made the switch to public domain art.

      >vampire quirk number 8

      Haha, I threw that one in there as a callout to Chinese hopping vampires. Back when I first was making this option and was toying with the idea of subclasses for it, I considered doing an entire subclass around being a Chinese-style vampire that jumps everywhere. Probably best I didn't.

      As always, wikipedia has more info:

      >ASI and features

      I moved Blessing of Darkness *mostly* to avoid the ASI, but I also felt like 5th level was a better place for it overall. I may move it back to 4th in future iterations, I'm very on the fence about its placement.

      >retooling Sanguine Strikes

      SS always seemed a little game-y to me. High on utility, low on flavor.

      Sanguine Strikes' main function is to preserve damage progression and award blood points, as blood points are so highly variable that they cannot be directly tied to damage in any real way. If I could create an ability that did that without stepping on Divine Smite's toes, that might be the way to go, but it's definitely something that could use a lot more thought before I attempted to execute it.

    2. Urgh, just realised when I went back and added in a bit I missed up the sentence order so it doesn't make sense.
      When I said
      > I also think it makes sense that a "counterspell" or similar would fail to work on this just the same as it would fail on the other transformations.
      that was meant to apply to the mist form, in addition to the problems I had with it making so many changes to the spell itself while still claiming to be the same spell.

      Anyway, one thought that I just had to replace SS might be to turn it into a "leader" (to use the 4e terminology) of sorts, being able to grant *others* the ability to make extra attacks, flavoured as resulting from the vampire's beguiling nature distracting the enemy. Not only would it help to preserve *party* damage output (even if the vampire's own damage would be decreased as a result), it would also fill a design space largely unexplored thus far in 5e, with only one minor battlemaster option really doing the same (and maybe one of the fighter UA options?).

      Another option would be to use something similar to the battlemaster's manoeuvre dice more broadly, and add in powers similar to what the 4e vampire gets, like Dark Beckoning (pull target toward you, do psychic damage) and Taste of Life (temp hp + pierce or necrotic damage).

    3. >counterspell and mist form

      Ah yeah, I see what you mean there. Yeah, it is adding a bit of a vulnerability there, but monsters with Counterspell are very few and far between. If D&D was more of a PvP-oriented game, I'd be more concerned, as damn near every player that can have Counterspell does, and definitely should.

      My intention with Mist Form was that always that it emulate Gaseous Form, and simply inserting Gaseous Form as a mechanic makes a certain amount of sense, in that it covers small holes that were present in the original Mist Form without additional design mechanics.

      Allowing it to be cast as a reaction is probably the biggest change to the core Gaseous Form, but even that I don't feel is too much of a reason to make the ability separate. Ultimately I'm not trying to do something fundamentally different, and so I'd like to have mechanics that would overlap and compete naturally to instead have an actual, obvious, intentional overlap that makes the rules more fluid and concise.

      >vampires and 4e leaders

      I agree that a proper "leader" is something 5e could use more of, though it maybe is an idea that meshes easier with the tactical combat themes of 4e.

      The vampire, though, is an entirely selfish class and creature. Nothing available to the vampire directly helps others, an idea that is central to themes present in most aspects of vampire fiction. A vampire sucks the life from others for its own benefit inherently, and empowering others (in a way that doesn't compel them into slavish service to the vampire) runs contrary to the vampire's core ideas.

      I get that your Draculas and your Strahds are often leaders of men in their own way, but that has less to do with their vampire-ness, and more to do with who they are as individuals. Not every vampire will lead, after all.

      >maneuver dice and blood

      I love this idea, this is definitely a contender if I ever want to re-attempt the vampire.

  2. Isn't it against the DMsGuild ToS to distribute content hosted there, elsewhere?

    1. I'm *pretty* sure that the ToS prohibit selling content on other platforms, not offering it for free, but I'll have to check.

      The more time goes by, the less certain I am on that point, and the more I think an official interpretation might be necessary. >_>

  3. This has always been solid, and is balance wise good, but I think it could do with another wording pass. Also, I'm fairly certain the best main class for a vampire is a sun soul monk - a ranged attack of any kind works for sanguine strikes, and ranged is superior to melee in equal damage, and monk can also spend ki to bite and get THP + blood points while maintaining a normal turn of 3 punches, or 3 radiant sun bolts.

    1. That's pretty ironic that a class option that harnesses THE LIGHT OF THE SUN would be optimal for vampires, but I totally see it.

      I'd honestly refluff it as grasping shadows and vampire magic, turning all the radiant damage into necrotic. It'd work well in a Lasombra from Vampire: the Masquerade sort of way.